Researching a Mystery by Paty Jager

SH Mug Art (2)

I’m not a forensic coroner or a lawyer or even a law enforcer. I’m the wife of a rancher and I write murder mystery.

As I write this next book in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series I’ve come across questions that have required answers by professionals. When I start a book I know how the victim will die and where. But I ultimately need to know what their injuries would look like say if they fall off a cliff or are stabbed with a blunt object or shot at close range with a small caliber gun.

These are all things coroners have seen and can tell me. But how do I get a coroner on speed-dial or in my case speed e-mail? I’m part of a yahoo loop that is filled with every kind of occupation a mystery or murder writer might need expertise about. The yahoo loop is crimescenewriter@yahoogroups.com

That’s how I connected with a coroner who not only answered my question I put on the loop but also emailed back and forth with me as I asked more questions and what-if’s. She has lots of knowledge and being a budding writer is willing to help out fellow writers.

Writing the opening and how the victim is killed and what is discovered went well, knowing I had the correct information and knowledge. Then I brought in some secondary characters and a sub-plot. For the sub-plot I needed some legal information. I turned to my niece who is a para-legal and what she couldn’t answer she knew where to send me to find the information. After my niece and I discussed the issue I wanted brought up in my book and how I wanted it dealt with, she suggested I contact a law enforcement officer.  I happen to have one in the family. 😉

I sent off an email explaining what I wanted to do, how would it be handled, and after some back and forth ,that element of the sub-plot was worked out.

Writing mystery books is my favorite writing experience. Not only do I have to puzzle out a mystery that will keep the reader thinking, I have to make sure the forensics and laws will work in the story and enhance the overall realness of the crime and the killer.

Have you read books where you could tell the writer hadn’t researched the laws or forensics? Did it bother you while reading the book or is that something that doesn’t bother you?

~*~

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. All Paty’s work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.

You can learn more about Paty at:

her blog; Writing into the Sunset

her website; http://www.patyjager.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas? By Ann McAllister Clark

It’s magical really. Well, at first it may seem that way. Creative thoughts, words and phrases running through a writer’s mind as she is writing. Sometimes it feels the words are like ribbons spilling out of our fingers, pens, pencils or keypads as if someone or something else is actually gathering them up and pushing them out on the page. When that happens I always send up a sincere ‘Thank You’ to the goddess of verbiage and thoughts. Yes, it is magic and when it happens I take a big breath and stay with it as long as I can.

And then I remember all the studying I have done – many college classes and dozens of writing books over the years. I read classics – Russian, English, and mostly American.

Writers get this question all the time – “Where do your ideas come from?” Ideas come right from a compilation of life and the writer’s experiences – encounters and events or things she has witnessed or researched. Writers have a way of filling up their internal and invisible sponge with all that moves before their eyes and ears and all the minutia of life. A writer is voraciously curious and thirsty for interest. A bit of this person, a little of that person, saved notes of conversation and pieces of experience all go into the vault of ideas. So ideas come from just about anywhere and go into the big soup pot of a rich mix. And then at the end of this wash of creativity comes the real work. Revision, revision and then more revision. The work never seems completely right and some writers may revise a dozen times or more.

bone in teethI watched much of the George Zimmerman trial in Sanford, Florida. I suspect many writers watch court cases on TV or better yet in their own county courtrooms with thoughts of incorporating what they see into their stories. We have files of interesting newspaper clips and magazine articles to be used at a later date for inspiration or research. I took notes on the attributes of the detectives, lawyers and court proceedings during the trial in Sanford. I used those notes to describe the detectives in A Bone In Her Teeth: A St. Augustine Mystery.

Traveling through the streets of Gettysburg, Washington, DC, and Antitam and walking many battlefields helped me immensely with description in my historical novel, The Chrysalis: An American Family Endures The Civil War.

I just finished reading Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World. http://www.amazon.com/My-Beloved-World-Sonia-Sotomayor-ebook/dp/B00957T7CQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447440566&sr=1-1&keywords=my+beloved+world

MorganWhen she was a young girl of about eight years old, she faithfully watched the weekly television program, Perry Mason and decided she wanted to be a lawyer! And then she diligently pursued that direction in every single aspect of her educational life all the way to her seat on the United States Supreme Court. I used her early years for inspiration in Morgan’s Redemption

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonia_Sotomayor

Where do we get our ideas for writing? Everywhere and anywhere.

Ann’s Books

A Bone In Her Teeth, paperback and kindle

Morgan’s Redemption, kindle edition and paperback

About  Ann McAllister Clark

A graduate with a BA in Education from charming Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ann McAllister Clark, author of the award-winning novel, A Bone in Her Teeth: A St. Augustine Mystery, and Morgan’s Redemption: 1st in the Morgan’s Bridge series and soon to be released, The Chrysalis: An American Family Endures The Civil War,  is a teacher, journalist, and former used bookstore owner. She now lives and writes in a small cottage in the Nation’s Oldest City, St. Augustine, Florida.

Ann McAllister Clark’s website
Ann McAllister Clark’s blog “Ann’s Cottage Blog
Ann McAllister Clark’s facebook page

 

What Fresh Hell is This?

IMG_1610You might think that the life of an author is all glamour and thrills, but you’d be wrong. I am looking down the barrel of a deadline and I am just not ready. My editor has already put the date back a month for me but I am still struggling. Book 3 in my series was going great guns. Things were happening, balls were in the air, juggling was going on. Nothing was going to stop me, until I got to the middle of the book. The nice shiny new was gone. The end seemed to be way too far to go. The plot was beyond my comprehension and I wanted to join my heroine in a large glass of wine.

So what do you do when you don’t want to do what you are supposed to be doing? You find something more interesting. My more interesting involved all sorts of things. Starting a diet, cooking (and if any of you knew me you’d know just how much I wanted to avoid writing if I was hanging out in the kitchen with a cook book), I started jogging again, and I decided to learn book marketing.

Can you guess which one had me running back to my half written manuscript?  Yep, marketing.  I’ve been buried in books on marketing, online videos, I have been wrestling with Amazon to add keywords to my books so that people can find them.

I am now in the midst of a course on how to advertise on Facebook. That is an exercise in frustration if ever there was one. I spent one evening wrestling with the Power Editor on Facebook creating an advert and nothing worked. The things I created kept disappearing. My stress levels were at maximum and the next morning I had an appointment with my doctor to get my blood pressure checked. I was shocked that it was normal because I felt like my head was going to explode.

Anyway, despite my best efforts, I am yet to crack marketing but it’s all good. For some unknown reason, whilst I was banging about screwing up everything I touched trying to give my first book away to a US audience, it took off in the UK and peaked at number two on the best sellers list in its genre. How or why that happened is still a mystery. Did someone somewhere talk it up online? Did Amazon decide to wind me up by emailing hundreds of people suggesting that they download it?

I wish I knew so that I could try and do it again. Meanwhile I have a photo of my computer screen showing how well it did and I will continue battling away trying to get a grip on book marketing. So, if you haven’t read my book…and there are millions of you…feel free to take tiptoe over to Amazon and download a copy. I need all the help I can get with this book selling lark.

You can download it at Amazon.

Lost Cause 400

Who Said You Could Wear a Dress?

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By JL Simpson

I made it this month. Due to the hectic pace of life, family crisis and dumb stupidity I missed posting in September. I hope you didn’t miss me, actually you probably never even noticed. However, whilst I have forgotten to post on here I have been busy writing.

Even though people buy and read my books I do feel like a fraud some days. In my head a writer bangs away on a typewriter with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of their mouth, a glass of whiskey close at hand. Even worse, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, (clue ha ha, no pun intended).

Some writers plot. They have weird charts, spreadsheets, cards and all manner of paraphernalia. I just have a blank screen. I’ve tried to plot. I’ve tried to work out how many words the book is going to be, how many chapters, what the gist of each chapter is, whose point of view it’s in, what the hook is at the end. It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t work for me.

For me writing a book is a lot like childbirth. Yes, lots of screaming, sweating, swearing at my husband (just kidding). Every word is hard earned. No matter how much you practice your breathing, and think  you know what is coming, labor is like nothing you could imagine. Everything you thought you knew goes out the window. Writing is like that for me.  Even when I have a plan or a plot my characters just do what they choose. I start a chapter thinking one thing is going to happen and then Solomon or Daisy will do or say something that takes the story off on a tangent. Today I was thinking I knew all there was to know about my grumpy Irish PI hero and then another character mentions that he once went undercover as a woman. Now Daisy is plotting how to put this knowledge about the Irish git to good use.

Not only is writing unexpected but it’s also surprising. If you’re going to slug it out for hours and hours then it’s nice to have something exciting at the end. When I had my kids I never knew if I was having a boy or a girl, and when I’m writing a book I never know what is going to happen. The only thing I know for sure is that someone it going to die, Daisy and Solomon are going to give each other hell, Daisy is going to flirt outrageously and somehow someway she is going to solve the case. Who dies, who kills them and why are not things that concern me when I start the story. Thankfully every book so far has been delivered healthy, and once dressed in a pretty cover lots of people have taken a look and decided that they love my crazy creation almost as much as I do.

 

www.jlsimpson.com

A Time to Kill

IMG_1610The problem with being a writer is having an over active imagination. Maybe you need the imagination to write, like the chicken and the egg thing. However, once you start to write your over active imagination starts to creep into every day life.

I had a very strange conversation with my son on the drive to work the other morning. We were trying to work out how many bodies you could fit in the boots of the cars as they drove past. If you were looking to dump a few murder victims it would be important to know these things.

Even before I wrote about murder I had a very nervous disposition. I think living with my husband made it worse. He scares the beejesus out of me, not on purpose. He is a clutz. It took four coats of paint to cover the red wine stain on the lounge wall when we redecorated, and we  bought a dark gray carpet for a reason. Every spill, crash, breakage makes me jump out of my skin. I pre-empt him dropping things and he says it makes him nervous and more likely to have a mishap.

Now my over active imagination has me jumping at shadows. I park my car in a multi story carpark. Taking the lift has me thinking it will breakdown and I’ll be stranded. Entering the stairwell sets my heart pounding. The other night I sprinted up four flights of stairs because the door at the bottom banged shut when I was half way up the stairs. I immediately ran for my life sure that it was some crazy man set on doing me in.

Maybe I should write a new genre? My over active imagination would have a new focus and life could be less tense.  If I wrote romance my husband could sweep me off my feet and take me away from all this. How about a book about financial crime? It might give me some ideas about how to make a fortune and give up the day job.

Then again, I kinda like killing people. There is nothing better to do after a hard day at the coal face than coming home and murdering someone. I often joke with my work colleagues that if they make me grumpy I will invent a character with their name and kill them slowly.